Ninja Assassin (R)

Action/Adventure 99 November 25, 2009
By Brian Miller
Isn't that a tautology—both ninja and assassin? Redundancy aside, having braved zombies in 28 Days Later, Naomie Harris now faces a centuries-old clan of ninjas who have been hiring themselves out, Blackwater style, as government mercenaries. Sad to say, the undead were more fun. Directed by James McTeigue (V for Vendetta), and with Joel Silver and the Wachowskis as producers, Ninja Assassin is a hard-R blood-fest with much CG and many severed limbs. Eurocop Harris discovers the ninjas' secret role in black-ops history, so, naturally, they come after her—that's the entire plot. But one Bourne-like rogue ninja (South Korean pop star Rain) does try to protect her from the silent swarm of sword-wielding assassins. (Strict traditionalists, ninjas here appear incapable of driving, using guns or cell phones, or smiling.) Ninjas love the shadows and abhor the light, leaving most of their battles murky and difficult to follow. (Try to count the screams, arterial geysers, and fallen limbs, then do the math; the ninjas always win.) With a passable smirk, 300-style abs, and limited English, Rain has zero chemistry with Harris; indeed, they spend half the movie apart. (Interminable flashbacks to his early training are like a ninja Hogwarts, complete with magical powers and puppy love.) A triple-cross plot with Harris's superiors doesn't help the movie's clarity—neither does the clattering sound design. Shouldn't throwing stars be silent? If they’re gonna sound like gunshots, why not just use guns?
James McTeigue Rain, Naomie Harris, Ben Miles, Rick Yune, Sho Kosugi, Numan Acar, Richard van Weyden, Togo Igawa Matthew Sand, J. Michael Straczynski Grant Hill, Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski Warner Bros. Pictures/Dark Castle Ent.

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